Girls Talk London: Inspiring Change – International Women’s Day 8th March By Vanessa Sanyauke

It still baffles me that in 2014, 96 years after women were given the right to vote that we are still on average earning £5,000 less than men and last year from the 7th November 2013 women were technically working for free until the end of the year as the pay gap had widened for the first time in 5 years. It gets worse- only 20% of Board Directors in FTSE 100 companies are women. Lord Davies warned in 2011 that if this growing rate was kept ‘it would take 70 years to achieve gender balanced boardrooms in the UK’.

This was the spark that made me start up Girls Talk London officially in 2013. This year the theme for International Women’s Day on 8th March 2014 is ‘Inspiring Change’ to encourage advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere. Girls Talk London advocates this by connecting young women aged 14-25 with some of the UK’s most senior women in an informal environment in order for them to share their stories of success and offer advice on how to enter competitive & male dominated industries. We have connected over 350 girls with women who have included Diane Abbott MP, Singer & Model VV Brown, Features Director of Cosmopolitan Magazine Fiona Cowood, Former CEO of vInspired Terry Ryall, COO of Tindall Riley Samantha Peat and many other women who work for companies such as Barclays, AIG, Sky, Goldman Sachs, Bauer Media & O2.

Our aim is to increase the number of women progressing into competitive industries and the number of female board members in FTSE 100 companies. I feel the only way we can do this is to empower, encourage and support the next generation of female talent to push the boundaries and equip them with the skills and knowledge on how to enter these professions and most importantly how to excel into senior roles.

Girls Talk London provides a safe and relaxed environment for women to come together and share ideas, stories and to discuss issues such as how to balance personal and professional life and the best lessons they have learnt. The conversations flow straight from the heart and give our girls the opportunity to be heard.

A report from The Women’s Business Council in 2013 stated that girls are out-performing boys in academic achievement at GCSE, A Level and degree standards but are still much less likely to choose the subjects that lead to higher earnings in later life. There is also a dip in the number of girls entering careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

This year to celebrate International Women’s Day (fashionably late) we will be hosting an event on Wednesday 19th March 2014 and are partnering with GoThinkBig, a digital hub for young people in the UK that gives them advice, inspiration & access to a range of relevant opportunities to help them to develop their skills & improve their employability. This has been a great partnership since we first collaborated on our event back in November 2013 which was hosted at Telefónica in London.

Working with GoThinkBig has allowed us to de-mystify any preconceptions about careers in technology by showcasing many senior women in O2 such as Shomila Malik, Head of Lab, and on this event we will be joined by Nicky McGroarty, Head of Supply Chain. These women have managed to build successful careers in a sector that is still growing and by them sharing their stories-the good, bad and the ugly-allows our girls to have a deep insight about the benefits and possible sacrifices to have a successful career in technology. The girls will have the chance to truly make an informed decision on their future career.

When I think back to my childhood I remember my parents and teachers telling me what I should be and limiting my options to either a Doctor, Lawyer or Accountant! I wish I had the use of a platform such as Girls Talk London where I could have discovered that the possibilities are endless and that I have the power to make my own informed decisions along with the support of role models to talk about issues that affect me in the world.

In April 2014 we will be launching an online TV Channel with in depth interviews with phenomenal women and an online blog with content on careers, beauty, fashion, events and opportunities.

Inspiring Change for women does not need to be a grand gesture and many can make a difference by doing small things such as visiting your local school to speak to female students for 15 mins, participating in an event such as Girls Talk London for 90 mins, writing a blog with your best tips or mentoring a girl on a 1-2-1 basis.

If we all do our part, we may not need to wait for 70 years for female equality in business.

@girlstalklondon @womensday @GoThinkBig

About Vanessa Sanyauke
Vanessa is the Founder of Girls Talk London. She began working with young people whilst at university when she set up a social enterprise, ‘The Rafiki Network’ that provided mentoring and skills development services for young people aged 11-25 in London. To date they have helped over 2,000 young people gain employment, start a business or progress onto higher education. Vanessa has been a recipient of a Spirit of London Award in 2010 and a Peace Award in 2011 and has been acknowledged for her work by Prime Minster David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
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